Today, I’m excited to bring you a guest post from my friend, Adam Toporek. He’s filling in for me while I’m out of town speaking at a conference this week.
I’ve gotten to know Adam through our PR Justice League Tribe on Triberr. Adam is a smart guy who blogs about customer service over at IntenseFence. You should definitely check it out!
Now, without further adieu, here’s Adam’s awesome post.
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One of the most difficult challenges of being active in the social space is knowing when a new social network is worth participating in.
The tendency of many is to jump on any shiny social object that enters their Twitter stream. After all, early adopters do have advantages:
- Early adopters are hip.
- Early adopters are authoritative.
- Early adopters are connected.
And, oh yeah…
- Early adopters are exhausted.
The Pareto Principle Does Social Media
Most people are familiar with the Pareto Principle (the 80/20 rule), which roughly states that 80 percent of your results come from 20 percent of your efforts.
In the social space, it could very well be said that more than 90% of your results come from a mere handful of social networks. Obviously, such a broad generalization is subject to industry and job-specific variation, but anyone who uses social media for business must inevitably confront one important question:
What is the incremental value of a new social network?
For consumers, the natural gravitational pull of the social space is vertical; most consumers are drawn to a few large networks. For businesses, the natural gravitational pull of the social sphere is horizontal, drawing businesses to more and more networks for fear that an opportunity to connect with consumers will be missed.
Even Klout is encouraging this horizontal tendency by adding an ever-increasing roster of ever-decreasing social networks to the Klout algorithm, bringing up important questions, as Jay Baer points out, of the value of participatory breadth. While the mad scientists tinkering in the methodological kitchen at Klout might disagree, I can say without equivocation that participatory breadth is a fool’s errand for small business owners.
For most small business owners, time on social media is a zero sum calculation. Time spent on one social network is often time taken away from another social network. Spreading oneself a mile wide and an inch deep is likely to result in an extremely diminished return on a business’ social investment.
In addition to multiplying the number of learning curves one must navigate, growth on networks tends to be exponential, i.e. the 20th set of 100 followers will come much more quickly than the first set of 100 followers. While exaggerated, most of us innately know that having 1,000 followers on one network is much more effective than having 100 followers each on 10 networks.
So, if spreading ourselves too thin across social networks is a poor strategy, how do we know when it is time to jump in to a new social network?
Use A-Listers As Canaries in The Coal Mine
Whether you dislike social media A-Listers (yes, I hate the term too) or listen to every word that falls from their digital lips, A-Listers can still be valuable to you in triaging your social media experience.
Because A-Listers have to be early adopters. A-Listers cannot take the chance that a new social network will catch on and that they will be left behind. Their status as an authority means they have to stay on top of the social space. And that means they have to jump into any network that starts to gain significant traction.
I have a list of about eight or so social media experts whom I watch when a new network appears. Instead of running immediately toward the new shiny object, I keep an eye on the experts — their reactions, their prognostications, their usage — and then look for either cohesion or dissent to develop.
If almost everyone thinks the new network is the hot new thing and the growth rates look solid, it’s probably time to jump in. When half love it and think it’s the future, and the other half think it’s redundant and adds no value, I know it’s too soon to bother.
Your accountant keeps up with changes in the tax law so you don’t have to. Social media experts can perform a similar function if you let them.
I have used this A-List strategy to forego investing time in Empire Avenue, Quora, and others. Have I missed out? Based on what I’ve seen over the past few months, it doesn’t seem so.
The time I would have invested in getting setup, learning about, and trying to connect in those networks would have eaten heavily into the already insufficient amount of time spent on my blog, Twitter, and Facebook. And based on what I have seen come from those networks so far, the trade-off would not have been worth it to me.
In the end, being an early adopter can pay dividends, but for most small business owners working their way through the social space, being a late adopter pays much better.
So, the next time a shiny new social network starts lighting up your Twitter stream, take time to look at the social media lamp in your hand. If you see Gary Vaynerchuck passed out in it, you might want to wait just a little longer.
Is being an early adopter worth it? Have you ever rushed into a social network too soon? What criteria do you use to know when to jump in?
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Image credit: Rainer Hungershausen